Friday, April 29, 2011

Games and Deconstructed S'mores

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . Daniel throwing a cup of orange juice at the beginning of lunch. Clean-up duty is all the more bitter when I'm hungry and my lunch is just sitting there waiting for me to eat it. Dude, could you possibly throw your cup at the end of the meal, when I'm full and your cup isn't?

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . the kids and their friend Jackson "breathing fire" at each other. They were pretending to be dragons.

. . . eating microwave s'mores with the kids. We each have a very different concept of the ideal s'more. I like mine with dark chocolate. Joy prefers hers sans chocolate--just marshmallow and graham cracker. Daniel eats as many marshmallows as he can until I put them away, then he munches a graham cracker or two.

And another thing . . .

. . . I still struggle to decide when to intervene as a parent, because the kids shift between playing and pestering so easily and so often. I want to teach them to be kind and considerate, but I feel like if I jump in every time one of them acts out, I'll focus to much attention on the negative behavior and deprive them of the opportunity to learn conflict resolution. They usually resolve things quickly on their own, so unless things get really dangerous or unacceptable I've started just letting them work things out themselves most of the time.

. . . Joy wanted me to pretend to be a lion this afternoon. She must have told me at least twenty times how to properly say "Roar!" but no matter how hard I tried to correctly imitate her pronunciation, she was always convinced I was saying it wrong.

. . . Joy also wanted to play Simon Says. Her directions included "chase Simon slowly" and "dogpile Mama." When it was my turn, I gave just one command: "lay down and take a nap." I promptly led by example. Joy objected but Daniel immediately followed my instruction, which set me laughing. Joy always finds it unnerving when I laugh and she doesn't get the joke.

. . . Joy asked to play Tic-Tac-Toe, so I found a site where you can play it online. We played until it was time for me to cook dinner, then Joy decided to play both X's and O's after I left. By the time we sat down to dinner, the final score was O's 20, X's 24, Ties 18. They say it takes a truly skilled player to outwit himself.

Simple Pleasures, Cluttered Desk

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . surveying all the clutter on my desk and realizing it would take me a week to sort through it all. Sigh.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . spending time with my sweetheart.

. . . feeling Baby Girl kick and wondering what she'll be like.

And another thing . . .

. . . the weather report says we'll be hovering in the 80s for the next week. Time to dust off the solar oven.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yogurt, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . puttering among the pots in my container garden. The thyme is starting to bloom, the rosemary seems happier and healthier in its larger pot, and some carrot seeds I worried were too old to grow have yielded at least one sprout so far.

. . . playing hide and seek with the kids. Daniel isn't interested in hiding, but he loves to help whoever is "it" search for the hider. Whether it was time to go count or hunt, he always did it at a run, giggling the whole way.

And another thing . . .

. . . Daniel and I paid a visit to a new Penguins Frozen Yogurt while Joy was at preschool today. My family used to go to a Penguins all the time when I was young, and I was curious to experience it as an adult and see how it compared to our beloved Menchie's. Menchie's won handily. It's cheaper, tastier, and more fun. I love that at Menchie's I can sample as many flavors as I want without asking, and pump in any combo of flavors in any amount, with any toppings I choose. There's just something satisfying about making my own creation, rather than asking a stranger to assemble corporate-designated quantities of things.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Flowers and Facts

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . seeing flowers bloom in planters, on fences, and randomly poking up in lawns. Even the little bugs hovering here and there in the sunshine were cheerful reminders that spring is here and the world is alive.

And another thing . . .

. . . random facts I learned today: radishes contain a significant amount of Vitamin C, and folic acid is another name for Vitamin B9. Who knew?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Croquet and a Silent Song

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . wishing I knew better how to cheer up a blind woman I know in a convalescent home.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . watching my smiling daughter march right up to the front of the chapel with the rest of the Primary, then not sing a single note of the Easter song they'd prepared.

. . . winning a game of croquet (with help from Joy).

. . . eating berry salad and lots of Easter candy.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bread Braids and My New Chair

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . Daniel having a tantrum because I forgot that he likes being the one to turn on the floor lamps.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . tossing a pillow to Daniel and hearing him giggle.

. . . Joy whispering "I love you very much" in my ear.

. . . Phillip loving a soup I made.

. . . baking my favorite bread braids. They look, smell, and taste so good.

. . . using my new desk chair: an exercise ball. For some reason I always sit with lousy posture in regular desk chairs, so I've decided to try an exercise ball because you can't help sitting with proper posture if you want to stay upright. A couple added bonuses: 1) It's easy to do some prego-friendly exercises while I'm working, and 2) the kids love playing with my "chair" when I'm not using it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Eggs and Risotto

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . a few more Daniel tantrums. It's rough being two.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . watching the kids play fun Easter games with Pink Grandma.

. . . having lunch with two good friends who also happen to be my boss and manager. We were celebrating my five year anniversary with the company (I've spent most of that time telecommuting from home a little bit each day). We talked about everything from my kids to my mission to the science of cooking, and time flew by.

And another thing . . .

. . . when I woke up this morning, one of the first things I was conscious of was Baby Girl kicking me. Most of the time I consider that a sweet experience, but for some reason this morning it struck me as slightly bizarre. It was just weird to think of another person being inside me, moving around and kicking me periodically.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Prayers and Stairs

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . Daniel having a terrible-twos meltdown. For the most part he is pretty happy and easygoing, but there are a few things he has very, VERY strong opinions about. For example, he always wants to be the one to open/close doors or switch lights on/off, and if someone else does it he freaks out for a minute or so.

He also insists on going up/down stairs before I do, which I don't mind as long as he keeps moving, but if he just stands there savoring the illusion of power I eventually get tired of waiting and go on ahead. That never goes over well.

Today he wouldn't move after I passed him, either, so I told him he could either come up on his own or I'd carry him up. Still no movement, so I carried him up the stairs. He took at least ten minutes to recover from that one.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . making homemade cocoa after dinner. It can't hold a candle to Swiss Miss or Stephen's but it was still fun to make our own, and since I put in a little too much sugar the kids loved it.

. . . this afternoon, Joy was reading our CTR board book and saw a picture of a girl saying her personal prayer at bedtime. Joy announced that she wanted to say her own prayer after family prayer tonight. I told her that was a great idea, and later after family prayer I put Daniel in his crib then Joy knelt in her bed to pray.

In contrast to her earliest prayers, in which she repeatedly asked for the same two or three things and never said thanks for anything, this prayer was all gratitude, mainly for family and food (she's certainly her mother's daughter). I was really proud of her for choosing to pray and giving thanks when she did so.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reflections on Diverse Education

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . reading books with Daniel.

. . . Joy giving me a high five when I won a game of High-Ho Cherrio.

. . . watching Joy and Daddy build a train set together, then give each other a big hug when they finished.

And another thing . . .

. . . I heard on the news today that the CA state senate has passed a bill that would require middle and high schools to teach about LGBTs' (lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender) contributions to history and struggle for civil rights. Proponents insist that this will increase LGBT students' self-esteem, decrease discrimination and bullying, and make history more balanced and inclusive. Opponents of the bill argue that teachers already struggle to cram the basics of our history into the brief time allotted them, and that historical figures should be recognized for their contributions, not their sexual orientation or other personal matters that may have no direct bearing on their achievements (unless it particularly impacted the arc of history, e.g. JFK's Catholicism).

As a student of history--and a former teacher of it while I pursued my master's degree--I found myself thinking a lot about this issue today. First off, it begs the question "What is the purpose of of social studies?" Is it to teach the history that has shaped our nation as a whole? In that case, I think it's true that there just isn't time to discuss every single minority group, especially when they haven't had a major impact on the entire country (or state). Harvey Milk's election is vastly meaningful to many LGBTs, but it didn't impact our nation as a whole nearly as much as the election of, say, Lincoln or Obama. Discrimination against LGBTs is shameful and sometimes appalling, but it doesn't even approach the tragedy and scope of slavery and the Jim Crow laws.

But perhaps social studies class isn't just about teaching history. If it's about learning to avoid past mistakes and live sociably with all members of our community, should LGBT history be included to increase tolerance? Perhaps, but then where do you draw the line about who is spotlighted and who isn't? If history is incomplete without LGBTs, is it also incomplete without Jehovah's Witnesses, Hmongs, and the increasingly varied rainbow of mixed-race Americans (e.g. Latino-Whites, Black-Asians, Argentinian-Korean-Americans, and Cablinasians)? If LGBTs have a right to see their struggles recognized and their heroes celebrated, don't Armenians, foster kids, and Sikhs, too? If social studies is principally about shaping good citizens, perhaps we should focus on historical figures' family lives more than their politics (Abraham Lincoln, in addition to preserving our nation and emancipating the slaves, was a deeply devoted husband and father who declared "All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother").

As a Mormon, I would love to hear my minority group's persecutions acknowledged, prominent figures honored, and falsehoods refuted. It would be gratifying to have more Americans know that in this land of guaranteed religious freedom, Mormons were routinely and viciously persecuted for their beliefs, President Van Buren refused to protect them for fear he'd lose the next election (he lost anyway), and the governor of Missouri issued an extermination order against all Mormons in his state. Moreover, it would be great to hear teachers praise Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Gordon B. Hinckley, and have them debunk many of the widely-held misconceptions about Mormons (for example: Yes, we revere Jesus as our Savior; no, we don't practice polygamy any more; and no, we don't blindly follow our leaders*).

In reality, though, most public school history books give Mormons a scant paragraph or two, or overlook us altogether. And frankly, I'm OK with that. I recognize that some parts of history that shape and inspire my minority group don't necessarily shape or inspire the other 303 million people in this country, and there just isn't time to tell everyone's story.

I do think we should address diversity or discrimination when it has a major impact on our community as a whole, but I object to the idea that you can't relate to history or be moved by it unless it includes someone exactly like you. I think a major problem in modern American society is that many assume they have nothing in common with someone unless they have everything in common with them. Part of being truly American—and truly human—is learning to appreciate the achievements of others just because they’re fellow members of humanity striving to improve the world, and feeling that they pass that torch to you regardless of how you look, vote, or worship.

*That's a whole other essay in itself. I'll probably address that one later this week.

Road Trip Memories

Phillip and I just got back from a road trip while my parents watched the kids for the weekend . . .

The trip's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . realizing we'd forgotten to bring a dozen things on the camping portion of our trip, especially firewood and marshmallows. What campout is really complete without a campfire and s'mores?

. . . a very long drive home yesterday.

The trip's favorite moments included . . .

. . . spending lots of one-on-one time with my sweetheart.

. . . meeting up with some old friends in Vegas. Mike still knows how to make us laugh. A lot.

. . . climbing into my cozy sleeping bag on a very cold night.

. . . touring the Carl Bloch art exhibit at BYU's art museum. It was very inspiring--I gained greater appreciation for the Savior, and for Bloch's ability to bring out both the divinity and humanity of scripture stories he portrays.

. . . going to Tucano's Brazilian Grill for dinner. You know me--I love good food, and Tucano's has it in great quantity and variety.

. . . watching a young woman poke Tucano's display dessert platter because she thought the food was fake, then yank her hand back with a squeal because she had just poked a hole in a real slice of cheesecake.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Where is Matt?

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . hanging out with my parents and sister this evening.

. . . seeing my husband smile.

. . . kissing my sweet kids goodnight.

. . . watching this video. If you want to smile for four-and-a-half minutes straight, I highly recommend watching it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cruella and the Obnoxious Grinder

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . grinding wheat for bread, and opening the bin to find mysterious, black shards scattered throughout the flour. While I was deeply disappointed that the wheat was wasted and my baking plans derailed, I would have been far more upset if I hadn't always hated this grinder, and yearned to replace it. Now that it has apparently self-destructed, I have a very good excuse to use some tax return money on its successor.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Phillip walking in the door after a late choir rehearsal. I missed him this evening.

. . . I was in charge of teaching Joy's co-op preschool class today, and we were reviewing letters R through V. Among other things I gave the kids some pictures to draw including two that were spelled with four of our letters: the U.S. and a T.V. I left the TV screen blank so they could draw any picture they wanted on it, and Joy chose to color the screen black because she likes the TV off. That's my girl.

And another thing . . .

. . . as we waited for some of the preschool moms to return, one of the girls proposed that we play 101 Dalmations. She asked me to play, too. I asked what she wanted me to do, and she told me to steal the puppies. In other words, I was being cast as Cruella De Ville. Raise your hand if you didn't see that coming.

First off, I asked "Anita" to sell me her puppies. When she refused, Joy suggested I come talk with her about her stuffed cat. Not being familiar with 101's sinister plot, Joy willingly traded me her cat for another toy. She asked what I was going to name the cat, and with a wicked grin I replied, "Mittens." And at that point, the game officially became too morbid for me so we switched to something else.

Puppies and Cadburies

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . hearing Daniel laugh as Daddy played with him after a very long day at school. They reminded me of a little maxim I heard recently: Work like a dog; play like a puppy.

And another thing . . .

. . . this morning we attended our second egg hunt of the week, this time in connection with a parenting class we attend. Parents were instructed to fill the eggs with healthy snacks or stickers, etc., as opposed to candy. It was a sensible idea, and I won't deny that yesterday's haul of sweets was sugar overkill, but as we opened egg after egg of goldfish crackers and Cheerios at home, I started to feel like something was missing. We eat those things nearly every day, so they didn't feel like a treat to me. The kids didn't seem to mind, but I soon found myself popping Cadbury Mini Eggs just to fill the emotional Easter gap. After the fifth egg I started to wonder if I'd overdone it, but then I noticed that the package states twelve eggs make a single serving. Who am I to argue with the experts?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Eggs and Mitt

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . attending an Easter egg hunt with dozens of other families from church. It was madness, in a fun sort of way.

And another thing . . .

. . . this afternoon I read that Mitt Romney is officially running for the presidency in 2012. I'm curious to see how his campaign will pan out this time. He strikes me as a smart, capable leader whose financial and business experience could be a huge benefit to our debt-strapped country, but last time I was a little put off by what struck me as an over-the-top effort to prove he was super, ultra, uberconservative. He was formerly the Republican governor of a very liberal state, so he can't be THAT conservative, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. I value his ability to work with both parties and get things done in that state more than I would value his being the biggest, baddest conservative on the block. I think our country needs bipartisan cooperation far more than it needs extremist rhetoric.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Stars, Giggles, and Inspiration

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . watching Phillip play a game with Joy.

. . . hearing an inspiring and thought-provoking Relief Society lesson on Christlike love.

. . . hearing Daniel giggle.

. . . looking at the stars.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Simple Pleasures

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . finishing chores.

. . . husband hugs.

. . . mini Snickers bars.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Board Books in the Wee Hours

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . poor Daniel waking up again at 1am. Daddy comforted and read to him while I took care of his concerned big sister, and soon we were all back asleep for the rest of the night.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . hearing Phillip read to Daniel early this morning. It was fun to hear Daniel laugh at favorite parts, then toss the book to the ground with a "thud!" when he was ready for a new one.

. . . visiting Pink Grandma. :)

. . . planning a road trip. Hmm . . . what to see? . . . where to eat? . . .

. . . discovering that Phillip actually likes the chocolate zucchini bread I made earlier this week. He usually loves sweet quick breads, but he hadn't touched this one. I found out that he just wasn't sure what to expect from it, so it was hard to be enthusiastic about trying it. He finally sampled it tonight, and gave it a thumbs-up. The kids and I like it, too--no surprise, since it's basically chocolate cake.

. . . finding out that our government isn't going to shut down after all.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Still Life and Chicken Soup

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . Daniel waking up late in the evening and fussing for a long time. We eventually got him up to make sure he was OK, and that comforted him for a little while, but he soon started crying again. We did everything we could think of to soothe him--feeding, rocking, cuddling, singing--but it only helped a little. Eventually Phillip asked if he wanted to go back to bed, and Daniel replied "Nuh" ("Yes"). I guess even he realized he was tired and needed rest. We laid him back down and he stayed right there under his blanket, but he kept crying for a long time before finally falling asleep. Poor little guy.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . getting a chiropractic adjustment. It's a relief when I no longer have to make a conscious effort to relax and stand up straight--it just feels normal and natural again.

. . . making chicken soup for dinner. The smell and taste are very comforting, especially on a cold day like today.

. . . attending a Relief Society meeting where we got a lot done but also had a good time just talking.

And another thing . . .

. . . Joy asked to color after Daniel went down for his nap, and she invited me to color with her. I decided to draw a still life of our fruit bowl, and gained greater respect for artists who are able to draw or paint with nearly photographic accuracy. It was all I could do to just make the apples, pears, and bananas recognizable as such, let alone color and shade them properly. Joy decided to draw the fruit bowl, too, but wasn’t happy with her first two attempts. She asked for my help with the third, and with a little direction she finally produced a drawing she was satisfied with.

. . . it was Furry the Cat's birthday today. Joy made him an imaginary cake out of flour, berries, lemons, limes, cinnamon-sugar, and goldfish crackers. Yesterday, she made Socks's cake out of thirty ingredients, and they were all dough enhancer (I guess Monday's quest made a big impression on her).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Funky Birthday to You, Socks

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . making microwaved s'mores with Joy. They're not quite as good as the campfire version, but a whole lot easier.

. . . hearing the song "Funky Town" as I shopped at Trader Joe's.

. . . singing our family's extended birthday song to Joy's stuffed lizard. Joy did a pretty good job of singing along, then she helped Socks the Lizard open his imaginary presents: a new clock, some train tracks, and a violin (it was V Day at preschool this morning, and one of the students' siblings played "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" on her violin).

Oh, Daniel

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . Daniel dumping his cup of apple juice everywhere. Why couldn't he douse our clothes BEFORE I did the laundry?

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Daniel cuddles.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bread and a Big Boy

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . hearing Daniel's high-pitched scream (sometimes cheerful, sometimes frustrated) repeated over and over, with plenty of encouragement from his big sister.

. . . calling every food store I could think of to ask if they carried dough enhancer for a whole wheat bread recipe I wanted to try. Nobody did. I eventually called a grain-loving woman in our ward to ask if she knew a good source, and she said I was welcome to some that was sitting in her pantry. Bless her.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . playing with and reading to Daniel while Joy and Daddy made a new train setup for our home evening activity. Once they were done, we all had fun running model trains along the intertwining routes.

. . . Phillip saying that today's loaf of bread is my best yet. I agree that it's pretty good, but I think it needs more flour and I'm curious to try it without the dough enhancer to see how it compares.

And another thing . . .

. . . Daniel is developing more personality and a sense of humor. In addition to doing things to fill needs and wants (i.e. communicating that he's hungry, or handing me a book so I'll read to him), he's also starting to make funny faces and do silly things just to amuse us (and himself). It's really cute.

Doing Vs. Being

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . more Conference, and the peace and illumination it brings. Elder Robbins's talk about doing vs. being particularly resonated with me. He had a lot to say about teaching kids to be good vs. just doing good, and he posed the poignant question how many of us have "to-be" lists. When that talk becomes available online in a few days, I want to study it more in depth and consider how to apply it as a spouse, a parent, and a person in general.

. . . a video chat with Phillip's sister and her fiance. It was fun to talk to them, and get to know our future brother-in-law better. He seems like a great guy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Burgers and Perspective

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . overreacting when Joy dumped too much baking powder in the strawberry bread. Mom fail. I scooped the excess out and the bread turned out fine.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . listening to two sessions of General Conference. The first session was uplifting, but I wasn't able to listen or ponder much because the kids were pretty rambunctious. The second session fell during naptime, and it was nice to actually be able to pay attention and reflect on what was said. Looking forward to more tomorrow.

. . . taking a walk with Daniel between sessions while Joy made a new train setup with Daddy. It was nice to just let him wander at will rather than always having to keep the two kids within sight of each other. Of course, the catch is that at some point I have to (repeatedly) persuade him to head back toward home. It would be quickest to just carry him, but would you want to haul thirty pounds of annoyed toddler three blocks?

. . . making tasty burgers and a strawberry smoothie for dinner. It always feels good when dinner turns out well, and I'm really glad I finally developed a burger recipe that is easy and consistently tastes good.

. . . reading ‘The Parable of the Little Peruvian Girl’ in a recent article about LDS Philanthropies. I could use more frequent doses of such perspective.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Music, Madness, and Ice Cream

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . discovering that there were no carts available at a clothing store, so I had no way to keep Daniel from wandering off. Trying to shop while keeping track of two small children was an exercise in frantic futility. After a few minutes we headed back to the car and strapped him into the umbrella stroller I keep in the trunk, then all was well.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . making ice cream and popcorn with my kids.

. . . attending a concert by my husband's choir on campus. I loved the Brahms piece, the Swahili number, the Bach cantata, and the rousing Gospel song at the end, but my favorite part was watching how passionate my sweetheart is about making music. I suspect the baby enjoyed the concert, too—I think I felt some little kicks during the cantata.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Some Like It Hot

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . watching my delighted daughter splash around our apartment pool in the 90+ degree heat.

. . . a family trip to our local fro yo place. Phillip and I both went for the "pineapple tart" flavor (I had mine with a side of "taro"), but we topped them very differently. I went with fresh fruit, while he opted for his favorite topping: sour gummi worms. As for the kids, Joy randomly piped four flavors into her bowl and topped them with chocolate sprinkles, and Daniel was content gnawing on the gummi worms Daddy shared with him. To each their own.

And another thing . . .

. . . I randomly happened upon this statement on the web this week: "It takes genius to split atoms, but it takes an even higher order of genius to split atoms safely. Unfortunately, we aren't that smart yet." No matter how many precautions we take with nuclear energy, accidents happen, and they always will because we're imperfect mortals and nature is unpredictable. I really don't want a radioactive accident in my backyard, or anyone else's for that matter. Nuclear energy may be cleaner and safer than coal or oil (assuming nothing unexpected happens, which isn't necessarily a safe assumption these days), but I still think there are better alternative energy options worth pursuing.